030 | The True Value of Risk for Marketing Leaders with Jack Mardack of Oyster | Studio CMO

Podcast by | November 19, 2020 Interviews, Marketing Strategy

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The Episode in 60 Seconds

Many CMOs feel their jobs—their careers—are at risk. They live and die by their successes. Jack Mardack, now co-founder of Oyster, is familiar with those risks. He’s walked the high wire of “growth” with some of the most exciting tech brands of the 21st century.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The rise of “growth” as a concept in marketing
  • The power of experimentation
  • How to take risks for greater reward
  • How to use First Principles as a leadership driver

Our Guest

Jack Mardack horizontal OysterJack Mardack is the cofounder of a fast-growing startup called Oyster which has come into being at an important time helping companies scale even with a remote workforce. He is an experienced B2B Tech marketing executive at some very innovative companies.

He was the head of marketing on the founding team of Eventbrite. Since that time, he led marketing for Mingleverse, a social meeting application long before modern tools. He led growth at Prezi during their skyrocketing phase when they scaled at more than 5x. He’s also led the marketing charge for Chartcube, Vonage, and Actian.

Show Notes

You don’t long suffer things that are underperforming and you don’t long deprive things that are performing of their due investment. — Jack Mardack

The Model Thinkerby Scott Page, was a mind-bending book for Jack Mardack.

The Model Thinker

For more on first principles, consider this article or this video.


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John Farkas (00:00): Between my wife and I, if we said at once, we’ve said a hundred times, we’re sick of COVID. It is a hard, challenging moment in so many of our lives for so many reasons. But one thing COVID has done is it’s created a moment for a number of companies. We’ve talked about it a lot. It is accelerating the pace of change and innovation faster than anything else has in our lifetime. And so there are holes that need to be filled problems that need to be solved that have never existed before some that existed before that have been expanded or the light shown on them. And the willingness to accept a faster rate of change is there because of this opportunity, when you have a solution that meets a real market need, and you know, that people are willing to pay for it, why would you do anything other than drive all the awareness you can, as fast as you can, to get that solution into the hands of the people who need it. Most, those are the opportunities we’re going to talk about today on Studio CMO.

Mark Whitlock (01:21): Welcome to Studio CMO. You’re at the place where we have real life conversations with marketing executives about the things that matter to them the most. And John, just curious, have you been in some bike races? Right? I’ve been in a few. Yeah. I ran the Ragnar race, uh, from Chattanooga all the way to Nashville and we ran on a team and they had this cool thing called kill. So when you pass somebody, they called it a kill and you had to tally up the number of, of people that you’d passed. And that was one of the hardest things was, you know, okay, I’m not going to necessarily win this race, but if I can just pass this person that that’s a sense of winning. What’s it been like for you in some of the, the bike races? What’s it been like to, to race ahead or hit?

John Farkas (02:07): And my personal cycling experience, my my races were more two instead of, uh, kills. It was more don’t be killed. Uh, I was never the star competitor. I did it because I enjoyed the comradery and stuff, but I think that, uh, certainly the idea of jumping in there and giving it your best and figuring out what part of this picture you can contribute to most in the context of a team for me, uh, was a big part of cycle racing.

Mark Whitlock (02:40): And we’re going to be talking with a guest today who personifies that. So I would tell you this don’t speed up your podcast app for this episode. You want to hang onto these words and we’re going to be going at a fast pace. So, so buckle up Jack Mardack is with us. He’s the co-founder of a fast growing startup called oyster, which has come being at a really important time. They’re helping companies scale with a remote workforce. We talk about remote workforce. We’re talking about attracting talent from around the globe for a multi continent approach to solving the problems that you have is an experienced B2B tech marketing executive. And he headed marketing at the founding of event bright and he’s led, uh, marketing at mingle vers, uh, which was a social meeting application long before, uh, Google Hangouts and zoom and everybody else, he led growth at Prezi. And we’re going to here, we’re going to, I know we’re going to dive into a lot about that as well. And was it chart cube, Vonage and Actium as well. Jack, thank you so much for being on studio CMO today.

Jack Mardack (03:38): It is a huge pleasure to be here. Thank you, both Mark and John,

John Farkas (03:42): I would love for you to, to take us back and kind of walk us through your career.

Jack Mardack (03:46): I would be very happy to, and I would say that I would describe myself very much as an accidental marketer. I didn’t, uh, choose marketing. I sort of gravitated, uh, in the end towards a new version of marketing that emerged right around the 2010, 2009 timeframe, right around when you first started hearing about growth and growth hacking. And so I, I arrived into that nexus by accident. Like it didn’t have a name yet, uh, but let me explain how I got there, right? So I had a first career in banking, uh, in New York. I was a, essentially an industry analyst working on fortune 100 structured financings at an international bank in New York. This was work that I ultimately found uninspiring, but it was, it was a very formative chapter for me. I, I learned how to evaluate markets and players, uh, and also how to build business models that explored causal relationships and tried to predict future outcomes.

Jack Mardack (04:52): So very, very foundational stuff to all the work that I would do in marketing and later years, even as I had no idea that that would be the case that, um, so right around the millennium, I, I moved from New York to San Francisco and that was an attraction that was based on the creative activity that was happening out here at the intersection of software and the limitless distribution of the internet. And so what did I bring? I brought the, the experiences from my, from my banking career, coupled with an emerging passion for user experience and software design, that kind of gave me a, a pretty unusual layer cake of skills that I was very lucky to get to bring to bear on optimization problems that some of what were then the most trafficked web properties of the day. Uh, I was a GM at FriendFinder networks.

Jack Mardack (05:43): I was, uh, I was, uh, had a UX position at Alta Vista. And so I got to work on some really large scale, uh, high business impact, uh, problems and context. And, and that was a big light bulb from, from, uh, for me, cause that was really where I realized the relative frictionlessness of growing digital businesses versus other kinds of businesses that I’ve scrutinized before as a banker, uh, no limits on inventory, no limits on, on distribution, right? And so these are, these are, these are quite mind mindblowing things. And so that was, that was pretty much that chapter. And so I, I joined, uh, Eventbrite, uh, in, uh, in late 2007, early 2008 as the second employee and the founding head of marketing. And what was incredible is that that opportunity afforded me, um, a big space, right? Cause I was the head of marketing, but that didn’t come with any boundaries.

Jack Mardack (06:43): Uh, and so, uh, remarkably, I had the opportunity to work entirely from first principles on, on the things to be done with sort of no preconceptions about what marketing is, what marketing wasn’t, et cetera. And because it was early stage, I was also able to have free agency across product, into product, just pushing my way into product led growth before that was a thing, because it seemed the right way to make the outcomes happen. And so that, that was, that was mind blowing. So I worked, I worked freely from marketing and to product and to measurement, I’ve been an installer of measurement at the companies where I’ve worked. It’s a, it’s a strength. And so building, creating, innovating, thinking stuff up, building it, seeing what happens, rinsing, repeating, I mean, that’s, that, that is, that is the essence of it. And you can see how these, some of these things begin to be recognizable as the principles of growth, growth marketing, but, uh, but you know, Kevin was an incredible founder CEO, and I think he recognized me a growth hacker before anybody had, had used that word yet. Right. Uh, and so I, I will be forever grateful for that opportunity. Um, and so, uh, uh, next chapter was, uh, was Prezi and Prezi is, was the most. And so here, I’m joining now as the head of growth at, and in the, in the 2011, 2012 timeframe where that was really still very rare. There were not a lot of heads of growth out there. And it was an exciting opportunity to, to create a team, to hire people into functional areas of, of my own design.

John Farkas (08:22): I’ll tell you my recollection of my first experience with Prezi. I was a hostage of PowerPoint.

Jack Mardack (08:28): Yeah. As, as many people are still on

John Farkas (08:31): Are still right. And here came this way of showing things that was clearly different, uh, you know, presentation tool that moved the box that helps people do something completely different and inspiring and exciting. So you walked in, in a point where people were real already sick of PowerPoints with a, that was doing something completely different. Yeah.

Jack Mardack (09:00): He was a very special context. Uh, it was, it was by far the most data centric company where I’ve ever worked. I joined at 60 people and 45 of those people were writing pig scripts onto the Hadoop cluster in 2012. Right. Very advanced stuff. So, and, uh, super talented people, great stuff on the inside and on the outside. Cause he was also having an incredible viral moment where we were getting, you know, 15, 20,000 signups a day, a day, uh, on the, on the strength of, uh, of that, that word of mouth. And that word of mouth was being generated by, you know, big people doing Ted talks on Prezi I title, that’ll get your, that’ll get your word. Yeah.

John Farkas (09:45): I remember seeing several of them. Yeah. Right, right.

Jack Mardack (09:48): Bono did one. And so Prezi was invested in by, by Ted as well, which, uh, helped that relationship. And the other vector of growth was the academic sector. And so in, in places like Brazil and Korea, we had great, great uptake from, uh, teachers who were using it in their classes, even in some cases, assigning homework, uh, in, in Prezi. And, um, and, and so yeah, so, so amazing stuff. And so, so what, what was happening though is that there was, there was also a kind of fortuitous, uh, not entirely sort of deeply premeditated choice about how to monetize that was really just kind of working. And it was the idea that your Prezi was free to use. And if you wanted to make your presence private, which presumably would be attendant to a business use case, then you had to pay. Right. And so, uh, when I joined there was this, there was this great, uh, great torrent of a free sign-ups, but tiny, tiny, tiny conversion, right?

Jack Mardack (10:51): Like half a percent on, on those, on those sign-ups. And so I joined Prezi right. As it was sort of figuring out what was really happening, who was using the product, how, whether or not those people were compatible with, uh, with a business and paid scenario. So ultimately we learned that no, they weren’t. Uh, it was mainly young people, students who had the, the intellectual flexibility and time to learn Prezi. Cause you know, Prezi was frigging hard. Like it would, it would, you know, it, it literally takes you like weeks or maybe even months to get really, really good at making Prezi. But it was an investment that a lot of people may, because as you said, it was a very inspirational open canvas for creativity that, that nothing really competed with. And, but it was that sort of open canvas. It was also its downside because it was also a big, big, scary space for people, for people that sort of didn’t know,

John Farkas (11:44): Are you used to doing things without lines and bullet points.

Jack Mardack (11:46): Exactly. And so, and so I, I was there for the beginning of that struggle and that ultimate transformation of go-to market apparatus away from the pro-sumer model and in the direction of B2B. And I think now they’re focused on salespeople and the value promises you sell more with Prezi than you do with PowerPoint. That’s kind of where they are right now. So my, my agency there was, uh, installing the measurement that exposed a lot of these relationships, working very Gridley and deeply on problems of activation leveraging some of that great capacity for instrumentation that that Prezi had into the software and retooling the go-to market away from this sort of freemium prosumer thing into a more deliberate sales driven, uh, account driven approach to selling to salespeople.

John Farkas (12:37): I know what I’m hearing is you came in to that context, having a really good backdrop and finance and analytics and understanding, okay, here’s how, here’s how the economy works. Right. And by the way, and then you were able to transpose that base level understanding into so some core from twos. And if then, you know, if we have a, if we have a solid value proposition that we can transpose appropriately to a active market, then we, then it only makes sense to go, go strong.

Jack Mardack (13:12): Exactly. And having a growth team gave you all these awesome leavers of, I got budget. I can do things with, I have developers. I can build things with and having a fantastic measurement infrastructure that shows me everything as deeply as I, as I want to see it.

John Farkas (13:27): So let’s talk about that moment in 2010, because that was a magic moment, right? That was certainly a hinge point in the world of marketing as all the sophistication started to open up that let us see stuff that was actually happening, as opposed to guess at what were the, uh, the points and opportunities. So it’s, it was really a critical sliver. And you were, you came in with the, the right base level understanding at a really great time in a really appropriate context to kind of push the envelope.

Jack Mardack (14:07): Yeah, exactly. And you know, it’s interesting because the reason that I, I, I took a position as a head of growth because after event bright, like I couldn’t go back in the box. I couldn’t not have developers. I couldn’t go back to caring as much about PR as I was about product led growth right. At a company at that stage. And so, uh, I was interested in it for a little bit and being a product manager since that seemed to be the place to bring those things to bear. And so what was exciting about growth and it’s early days is that, and I don’t know if you guys remember it, but certainly in my head, this is true for a while. It seemed like growth was going to be bigger than marketing rather than sort of ultimately collapse and be a new name for digital marketing. It seemed like growth was bigger space. It was, it was including more things. And that was the basis of my, my attraction in growth. Um, but I think that the market is, uh, has integrated a growth marketing now. And we, we sort of have a place for it under the umbrella of marketing, but for a time that it was very exciting. And that was what I was drawn to. It was the, the ability to continue inventing and building and software measuring and using first principles to drive business outcomes.

Mark Whitlock (15:18): The idea of first principles has been around for a long time. I mean, ancient times for crying out loud logic and philosophy in ways of looking at problems and Elon Musk and others have made it popular now, but there may be some who are listening to us who don’t know it yet. Could you give us kind of a quick summary of the idea of first principles and what are some resources that you rely upon to help you think through the first principles?

Jack Mardack (15:42): So, first principles is fundamentally about taking action about things that are an end of evidence, uh, assessing them in a prima Foshay manner and drawing conclusions from those observations, as opposed to, from things not in evidence are from prior assumptions about how you get from a to B that’s first principle. And one of the, one of the most, uh, accelerating intellectually books for me, uh, in recent memory is the model thinker. I forget the author’s name, but I’m sure you’ll find it very quickly. And so that, that, you know, uh, at, at this latter stage in life changed my perspective. It expanded my mind, uh, by showing me the way that, uh, thinking through different models with first principles in mind can even be more powerful. So I would, I would suggest that as a read,

John Farkas (16:29): which is Scott Page, right?

Jack Mardack (16:31): Yes, that’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Changed my head.

John Farkas (16:35): Super interesting. So let’s hit pause there and just jump to where you are right now. Cause you’re, let’s talk a little bit about oyster. Give us a little introduction about what you’re doing now and then, and then I want to hear how you’re approaching. I know your whole on your rare Indigo horses, horses, tell us how you are seeing that opportunity because you know, you’re coming in as a, as a co-founder great thesis. You’ve got a great partner founder who is tremendous experience, and you’re in a moment with that organization that is certainly pertinent and, uh, and relevant to where people are right now. So super curious to hear about oyster and how you are seeing this moment.

Jack Mardack (17:24): Great, great. So oyster is a platform purpose-built created for distributed remote centric organizations to finally make it super easy to hire and pay people and give them great benefits all around the world. Right. Uh, and, and that was an idea to which we arrived in the middle of 2019. Well, before Corona virus, needless to say, uh, the pandemic has been quite an accelerator for the zeitgeists in general, around the idea of distributed organizations and remote centricity, which is fantastic for us.

John Farkas (17:57): Your bulls-eye as an organization, that’s multinational has employees and in different currencies, time zones, all that, all that fun stuff that makes doing business pretty challenging

Jack Mardack (18:08): Today, more than ever, a growing companies who are maybe shedding the office altogether are looking hungrily at all the amazing talent all around the world. And so what we do is we just eradicate the traditional barrier that has made that impossible for a lot of companies and expensive, complicated, and fraught with risk for countless others. So we’re excited, uh, very much about the market moment from, from that standpoint. And so marketing for us right now is fundamentally about, uh, asserting leadership of the new category. That is, uh, that is what we’re, what we’re doing. And so this is an emergent category, distributed talent enablement. Uh, and so that, that is a, that is what we’re doing. Uh, and we are, uh, quite early stage, not yet, uh, 20 people, but I’m already enjoying, uh, extraordinary uptake from the market. Uh, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear since we pulled a hanky off of ourselves in April announcing our seed round, we’ve been absolutely overwhelmed and it’s been amazing. I’ve never felt such suction as a marketer from, uh, from, uh, the, the market. So that’s, that’s pretty extraordinary

John Farkas (19:20): Product market fit really interesting moment and a good core team with a product that is going to solve a real clear problem. How do you jump into that with, with a winner mindset?

Jack Mardack (19:33): So as always, I’m working from first principles, that means that we’re, we’re in a position to consider the tactics and the programs that make sense for a company at our stage facing, uh, the market opportunity that it is a, it is facing, uh, in some regards where a fairly conventional B2B SAS business, ultimately that, um, is building an aspect of product led growth. And the, to a self-serve flow will be, we’ll be standing up a sales organization that is going after larger accounts. Uh, and so, uh, as we are, um, uh, developing our platform, we recently announced availability in 50 countries, uh, back in the middle of September, we’re already at, uh, at 60 plus, and we’ll be in a hundred countries by the end of the year. And so we’re, we’re standing up the go-to market organization that is appropriate to the market moment and to our stage. And you would imagine what that entails.

John Farkas (20:31): So, so talk about how you’re approaching it from a strategic perspective. How, how, let us into your playbook a little bit, as far as how you are, how you’re beginning to engage.

Jack Mardack (20:41): If we look at the overall market right now, we say that our, our total addressable market has been absolutely increased by the larger number of companies that are shedding some or all of their offices that have said, Hey, this is working great for us. And for that reason are opening remote roles and thinking beyond the 30 mile radius of what used to be their HQ. So there is a, there is an incredible, uh, choice of targets, uh, in, in terms of the market right now. But our first focus is what you might expect to be where the activity and the interest is hottest, which is those companies that were already remote centric, that, that, that don’t have to be educated as to the benefits of tapping the global talent pool. And to them, we are an absolute panacea, right? And so, uh, that is our, that is our first segment of attack. If you will

John Farkas (21:35): Minimizing friction going after the ones that you know are going to be the natural, have natural affinity,

Jack Mardack (21:41): Got a $20 million check, and you’ve got to hire 20 developers in a quarter, we are absolutely your partner, uh, to make that happen. And if you’re a remote centric organization who wants to see how far that salary dollar can go around the world, uh, and, uh, and, and it’s an exciting moment for, for these companies too, because they are also now enjoying the ability to manifest their own identity as attractors of talent and in a totally different way. Uh, it’s been fascinating to lean in and learn from some of these organizations in terms of how they’re adapting to and taking advantage of the fact that wow, we could hire anybody from anywhere and sort of how mind blowing that is and how to contend with that as, as sort of the next transformation of talent acquisition,

John Farkas (22:26): What are you doing to let them know? How are you getting the word out?

Jack Mardack (22:30): You’ll appreciate the comparison of, of John Deere. So John Deere taught farmers how to farm and sold them tractors. And so we’re, we’re very committed. So we are fully distributed ourselves passionately. So this, this was our plan before COVID right. And it’s been amazing because we thought, well, we’re going to be that quirky, unusual company that has to explain itself a little bit and answer silly questions like, but how do you whiteboard and how do you know people

John Farkas (22:58): Exactly

Jack Mardack (22:59): And incredible for us to have sort of the rest of the world in the, in the, in the hot tub with us at the same time, that’s, that’s been incredible. And so we we’re, we’re inspired by the opportunity to help other organizations be better at being distributed. Uh, and we’re, we’re also interested in helping people around the world, particularly in the developing world to adapt to the new modalities and to take advantage of the fact that now nothing prevents someone in Lebanon or Uganda or Trinidad and Tobago from getting a great engineering job with Google, right? It’s never, it’s never been more feasible, never more likely to happen. So we’re super inspired by that. And our commitment to impact is quite strong. We are a B corporation pending status, sort of we’ve, we’ve checked the preliminary early boxes and are on that, uh, on that track. And, um, we’re, we’re, we’re very, very committed to social impact piece. If you go over to our website, you’ll on our, about us page, you can consume our diligently created impact thesis through, through which we, we take that, that sort of more purposeful, serious step of actually showing how our organization creates positive impact for people, for communities, for the environment

John Farkas (24:09): You are in some sense, cherry picking right now, the organizations that are your easiest, best opportunities. So driving awareness, taking up the thought leadership mantle, helping people understand how to redress the problem, which is classic category creation, modality, right? What was the three letter or the three word category?

Jack Mardack (24:34): Oh, distributed talent enablement.

John Farkas (24:36): Yeah. So is that your design?

Jack Mardack (24:38): Oh, no. We were kicking it around. I’ve spoken with some industry analysts about it. It’s an evolution it’s like, see pass for next month. Right. I mean, it’s a, it’s an industry term. It’s, it’s, it’s not, it doesn’t appear in marketing a lot, but it does attempt to create, uh, a definition around about something new,

John Farkas (24:54): Super important. Right. And I know that the beautiful thing about what you just communicated is I have some idea of what it is right off the bat, which is pretty important in a category name that I can put that together. So I think you’re on a good track. That’s good feedback from your perspective, what comes next?

Jack Mardack (25:10): We have a focus in terms of who we think is our ideal first customer, but let me tell you, um, folks outside of that segment are not being prevented from, uh, knocking on our door and they are. So even as we have say, a strategic focus in mind, a kind of organization for which we are building the demand for this stuff is, is, is overwhelming. So it’s really how, how we choose to invest our growth, our, our marketing budget, how we, how we build the, the, the marketing organization from here that dictates how we, how we engage, but I can share that where we’re, um, we’re, um, we’re leaning towards a highly self-serve product led model, ultimately where removing friction, creating those capabilities easily for customers is going to be very important. Uh, and so I think there’s, there’s product work to be done there and marketing work to be done to support that, uh, you know, in, in matters appropriate to our stage, which is between seed and a round.

Jack Mardack (26:13): Right? And so that, that, that puts certain certain limits and constraints on what you’re doing. Uh, you know, never constraints that I’ve, I’ve struggled with in the past. Uh, thankfully I think that’s, that’s why I’m here, but, um, but I think it would be a fairly normal orchestration of, of marketing stuff. Um, uh, building machines, right, using, uh, advertising in certain deliberate ways to bring, uh, awareness of oyster to the right people at the right stages of their consideration and solution seeking as well as other things that are more community oriented, where, uh, already, uh, wonderfully enjoying a great reception and warm welcome from the preexisting remote centric community. Right? And so there was, there’s a bunch of people who’ve been talking about this being a good idea for a very long time. And I think very deservedly, they’re all enjoying their moment in the lights. And so we’re very humbled and inspired by the opportunity to a couple and partner with these organizations in these communities to help advance many aligned causes, which which go beyond enabling remote working, but improving the world, improving economies, lowering the rent in San Francisco, raising the salaries. And Ganda things like that. Where, where the F uh, thoughtful, passionate idealism that is, that is, that has been a part of the remote movement so far is happy to go and happy to welcome partners, too.

John Farkas (27:44): So you’ve had a number of different experiences leading up to this. What came together for you in Oyster that won, that made you want to jump in strong? What were the, what were the, what were the contributing factors that converged to say, okay, this is the next, uh, what will invariably be a big movement for you? And,

Jack Mardack (28:08): Yeah, the, the math was very, very easy for me. Uh, and so, uh, if, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re lucky, uh, you get to work on problems that you find interesting, right? Intellectually stimulating. If you’re very lucky, you get to do that with people you like, maybe who, with whom you’ve worked before and have great admiration for it, which is the case with Tony Jamis. And if you’re very, very lucky, then you get to do those things and possibly make the world a better place, you know, in, you know, in, in the same swing of a bat. And so it, it was the extraordinary capacity for alignment between our business model and social impact that, that absolutely cemented that for me,

John Farkas (28:48): There was something you jump up on and say, this is, this is the way you got to approach X, Y, Z, that, that, that you would want to share with the greater marketing community,

Jack Mardack (28:59): Vast

John Farkas (29:00): Oceans of marketers that listened to studio com

Jack Mardack (29:04): Indeed, uh, humbling is that attention is, uh, I’ll see what I can, I’ll see what I can muster, but I I’ve used the words first principle a few times already. Yeah. And many, many times, I didn’t know what would work or what would have any impact and merely for first creating the framework through which you could see what was happening, sort of very important, and by what was happening. I mean, that can be very complex from a data architecture standpoint, like it was a Prezi, or it can be, you know, modest, like it wasn’t Eventbrite where we were doing analytics by querying the production database, you know, counting the numbers of events that were being created every day. Right. And so it’s important that shorter, you see how you have a perspective over the model, the mechanics, through which your business creates revenue and creates those outcomes that you’re growing for.

Jack Mardack (29:53): And so armed with that, I would say, even if you go confidently into a space about which, you know, nothing, knowing that you can learn very quickly. And so that is what I would, I would share install for yourself, a perspective as broad and as inclusive of everything. That’s important as possible. Use that systems perspective as, as you might call it to inform theories about, well, look, uh, you know, there’s a billion impressions over there with a 0.001 CTR. I wonder what happens if we adjust, you know, the ad, you know, which was kind of a transformational experiment that, that we did, uh, at, uh, at FriendFinder right. So when you’re working with extraordinary volumes and parts of the machine, you can see and know where to focus your experimentation, right? And so that, that is very critical. And I have, I have relied on that systems perspective at every company that I would have been. So I would say first principles, install as holistic as a perspective as your company can provide for you and chase, uh, experimentation at every place. That seems to make sense in that machine. Um, and, and I think what, what better, what better definition for product led growth than to ignore the boundary between acquisition marketing and the product and retention, it’s all one machine.

John Farkas (31:10): So you’re pushing on an area. We end up talking a lot about with marketing leaders, and that’s the area of risk, you know, just being willing to push levers in, in directions that maybe not everybody would expect that might have the opportunity to make some, make some impact. Uh, talk a little bit about your approach to that and how you cultivate an environment that’s accepting of that in the context of the organizations you’re part of,

Jack Mardack (31:35): Yeah. Great question. Great question. And so that, that trust is something that has to be built. And I think even as you, you might be a marketer with, you know, who’s working with people that don’t know you or, or, you know, where you still have to cultivate that trust. There, there a lot of trust can be won by understanding why you do what you do and having a grounded explanation. Uh, and so I, I would say that that’s an important aspect of that journey to trust and to have people let you take those risks. Another aspect on the mitigate and the risk mitigation side relates to that framework of learning and framework of experimentation. As many, uh, marketers who have worked with me can attest, I am quite insistent on rate of change, um, because our rate of improvement cannot exceed rate of change. And so rate of change is a limiting factor rate of changes.

Jack Mardack (32:29): You know, we changed ad copy 13 times this week, this week, or this month, as opposed to once, uh, it can mean, you know, we tried this experiment, uh, you know, these three, as opposed to this one over the period. So create a cadence, create an energy, create an urgency around that rate of learning. And that is the mechanism through which you see what’s working, what’s not, and you can shift investments in a very dynamic way, shift, investment, and attention. Um, one of the things that I think was, was, uh, unattractive to me about marketing as I considered it before I was a marketer, was this idea of, uh, PR long, long premeditated, uh, slow, long execution things that, you know, take, you know, it’s a year to plan and execute and a year before you see whether it worked or not. And that was, that was like the most, the most horrifying scenario in which I think I would, I would, um, strive to do marketing. So what, what I like is rather the opposite of that. So, uh, again, the, the, the framework through which you can see what’s happening across your, your, the appropriate range of those experiments and, uh, as a leader, uh, an urgency as a cadence that you create within the team, uh, which is part of what a marketing leader should do, which is, which is around, around driving change, because the rate of improvement cannot exceed the rate of change. And so paying attention to the rate of change is in very impatient.

John Farkas (33:54): So an intentional measured impatience.

Jack Mardack (33:59): Exactly. Yeah. Impatience is, is the right word, right? You don’t long suffer things that are underperforming and you don’t long deprive things that are of, of their due investment.

John Farkas (34:11): So that is a really good encouragement because I know the nice thing is we can see click-through rates in a big hurry right now, right? I mean, you don’t have to sit around and wonder if somebody’s going to click on something, you put it out there. They do, or they don’t. And it happens fairly quick. And I am guilty of saying, well, maybe if we hang on a little bit longer, some going to change, because I thought that that was a really good idea. Well, you know, what I hear you saying is, and, and I’ll tell you, we have several people evangelists on our team who will jump up and down and say, the data don’t lie, but the data doesn’t lie. It works, or it doesn’t get over it. Right?

Jack Mardack (34:53): Yeah. The idea is to use it purposefully,

John Farkas (34:55): That whole idea of creating a culture of urgency and expectation of movement growth, acquisition of knowledge, and acting on it is a, it’s a real important element.

Jack Mardack (35:09): I think that’s one of the key brings of a marketing leader.

John Farkas (35:12): You’ve had to build a marketing team in multiple different venues. How do you instill that sense of risk and urgency? And

Jack Mardack (35:19): You hire for it, you hire for it, you hire for it.

John Farkas: What does that look like?

Jack Mardack: Well, I guess people who have curiosity energy are self-motivating right. I mean, because, you know, you don’t want someone who’s for whom experimentation is a, is a painful slog, right? I mean, you, you want, you want to hire someone for whom that creativity is unstoppable and one, one need rather to just focus and direct it. So I, I hope that’s not, you know, to deliver an answer, but I think you, you, you hire for it. It’s part of the marketing’s organization. DNA

John Farkas (35:52): Fear can be a big part of the equation in, in these scenarios, fear of failure, fear of, and if you come from a context where not doing the right thing, results in a really severe reprimand or whatever, and you’re coming into a context where, where there’s an expectation of, of pushing levers and, and experience and experimenting, that can be a hurdle to get over. So ideally finding people who have that built in, and aren’t living in some sort of,

Jack Mardack (36:26):

As I, as I’ve put it a few times to folks that are on my teams, uh, it’s great. When you give a person a space and they, they go and find the edges, right. They, they, they just go and find those edges and, and they, they work there and advance those frontiers. Uh, I would say that’s a, that’s a, that’s also a good leadership mantra, which is give smart people, big spaces and, and inspiration, and some orientation to the problem and, and let them go.

John Farkas (36:54): Does you look at oyster and where you are right now, do you have an example of a, of an experiment and maybe one that’s worked really well and one that has not worked as well?

Jack Mardack (37:06): Yeah. So w we’re, uh, we’re a modest team. Um, but in spite of that, we’ve been able to create a very capable analytics infrastructure that gives us visibility into all of the digital space, across the website, into the product. Um, we use, uh, segment, which is a company that is, is being discussed right now. And so, and so there’s a lesson there in that if you insist on it, there’s, there’s without breaking the bank. Even there’s a way to get a quite capable analytics capability and even a very early stage company. So as to, and that is, that is the framework on what you can support and do, uh, experiment. So I would say we have done that. And, um, we we’ve been experimenting with, uh, with different channels, different methods of, of acquisition, uh, as well. And so I, I can share without, you know, too much detail, some learnings that, that are, that have happened around the, the, the benefits of creating. So in, in B2B, uh, multiple touches are kind of always the necessity, right? And as, as I, as you think about, as opposed to say an e-commerce shot where you just need to be show up in the search result, and ideally they’re going to proceed through to that purchase, you know, with, with a lot of, a lot of direct energy, B2B is about evaluation and consideration

John Farkas (38:32): And systems incorporation.

Jack Mardack (38:36): Yeah, exactly. So multiple touches. And so giving yourself the framework to see all the touches, to see their relative agency on the outcomes in which you’re interested is, is very important. And so some of the experiments that we’ve, that we’ve been conducting, uh, involve mechanics of, uh, remarketing, if you will getting folks who’ve been cookied back to the site to engage with, uh, with content or other, other elements. Uh, and, and so having, having that kind of, uh, visibility into the system at such an early stages is a first right. But, but, but for the first time I had sort of completely the wherewithal to just install what I thought was necessary and get oyster, uh, to a very, a very advanced place. Relatively speaking for a company that is still is still quite small,

Mark Whitlock (39:21): And what’s a experiment that’s not worked.

Jack Mardack (39:24): So let’s go back to Prezi. Prezi was facing a, an activation problem because the, the thing was really hard to learn. Uh, and so as a head of growth, I was interested in ways to accelerate or even short circuit, the learning process. And one of the things we came up with was something called templates. And the idea of a template was it gave you a place to start, right. Things to fill in. And from that idea came something that we called scrapbook, and that allowed us to tap into an entirely different use case and entirely different end result that people who were interested in making digital scrapbooks wanted to do so, this, this was, uh, you know, by some measures of brilliant idea, since it tapped in on something that people in the world wanted to do, which is create digital scrapbooks, right. And it turned out that actually, you know, Prezi could be amazing at that.

Jack Mardack (40:16): And so we invested in the creation of, of scrapbooks for Prezi, and it did wildly well, you know, incredible activity, but of course, ultimately the learning is, this was not in the direction in which we should have been moving. This was not taking us in the B2B fire direction. It was just another, at best a prosumer use case that wasn’t really, uh, um, uh, elevating the creative capabilities of the platform. And so that’s an example of sort of following one instinct, which is just looking for other markets, other people, other sources of energy that could be tapped like, yeah, there’s a use case. They, they want to do that. Let’s, let’s, let’s let them do that in Prezi. And so, like I said, by some measures wildly successful, but not really moving the right needle, the white the right way.

Mark Whitlock (41:03): And it looks like our experiment is coming to a close Jack Mardack. Thank you so much for being on Studio CMO with us today

Jack Mardack: Gentlemen, it was a great pleasure.

Mark Whitlock: If you want to find out more about Oyster, more about Jack’s career journey, uh, more about first principles, come on over to studio cmo.com and you’ll click on the Jack Mardack interview it’s episode zero three zero. The fastest way to find it is studio cmo.com/zero three zero. And we’ll have an outline of today’s episode, a link out to the book about first principles, a link out to oyster and so much more. And while you’re there, go ahead and subscribe because next week, I’m going to sit down with John and we’re going to walk through lessons learned in 2020. You don’t want to miss that episode, nor do you want to miss any fof the upcoming guests we have throughout December and into 2021. Thanks for joining us. Remember to come on over to studio cmo.com/zero three zero that’s studio, cmo.com/zero three zero, and be a part of what’s happening here until next time, understand your buyer’s problems lead out of that empathetic understanding, and always, always make your buyer the hero. We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.


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